Bowl Previews: Non-SEC New Year's Eve (Armed Forces, Sun, Insight)

Armed Forces Bowl, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: An innovative lobbying approach to ingratiate sponsor Bell Helicopter to the military.

The Teams: Houston, Air Force

How Houston got here: By rebounding from a 1-3 -- including a 31-28 loss to Air Force -- to win six of its last eight, including a 41-24 defeat of East Carolina and a 70-30 clobbering of Tulsa. As usual, Houston won with offense, offense and a little more offense, averaging 575.1 ypg, including 414.1 ypg. Too bad they ranked 102nd nationally in total defense, allowing 418.6 ypg. The star of the offense was QB Case Keenum, who completed 67 percent of his passes, ranked 10th in the country in passing efficiency and passed for 4,768 yards, 43 TDs and 10 INTs.

How Air Force got here: By losing only to fellow service academy Navy and the Mountain West heavyweights (Utah, BYU and TCU). The Falcons never got a marquee win, but then you don't need a marquee win to get into bowl games nowadays. As you might expect form a service academy, Air Force rushed for 268.9 ypg without a real star while ranking 117th in passing offense (though first among the three service academies). The defense was slightly above average (335.3 ypg total), but the Falcons didn't turn the ball over much, didn't allow anyone to get to the quarterback and sacked the opponents' signal caller an average of 2.75 times a game.

College football fans care because: It's something to do until the Sun Bowl begins at 2 p.m.

SEC fans care because: It's something to do until the Music City Bowl begins at 3:30 p.m.

Watch this game if ... : You don't want the terrorists to win.

The result: Houston 28, Air Force 24

Sun Bowl, 2 p.m. ET, CBS

What it is: A way to show El Paso residents that UTEP is not the best college football has to offer.

The Teams: No. 25 Oregon State, No. 20 Pittsburgh (BlogPoll)

How Oregon State got here: Started out losing to Stanford and Penn State, then defeated Hawaii before stunning WIN FOREVER ALWAYS NATIONAL CHAMPIONS Southern Cal. The Beavers then lost to Utah but did everything else they needed to in order to have a clear shot at the Rose Bowl. Then they decided to fall apart against rival Oregon, losing 65-38 and disappointing everyone who wasn't either a Southern Cal or Penn State fan. (Some Nittany Lions boosters apparently dreading a rematch that would gain them little additional national respect.) The star, as much for his name as for his performance, was freshman RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who rushed for 1,253 yards and 11 TDs on 259 carries; against Southern Cal, he ran for 186 yards and two scores. Too bad Rodgers isn't expected to play in the Sun Bowl. The only other foe he didn't face? Oregon.

How Pittsburgh got here: Some of us (self included) sneered at the idea that Pittsburgh would be a dark horse in the Big East this year. Then the Panthers returned from a 27-17 loss to Bowling Green to become dark horses in the Big East. That would crumble after a 20-point waxing against Rutgers and a loss to Cincinnati. Pittsburgh doesn't do anything extraordinarily well, but they have RB LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 1,403 yards and 21 TDs on 284 carries. And McCoy is pretty consistent, rushing for fewer than 75 yards just twice in 2008.

College football fans care because: It's an intriguing interconference match-up, and the last chance to figure out how good either of these teams really are.

SEC fans care because: It's your last chance this year to hear Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson call a game. Over/under on Danielson's Matthew Stafford references: 18. Tim Tebow references: 27.

Watch this game if ... : You still don't appreciate Dave Wannstedt's wonderful mustache.

The result: Oregon State 27, Pittsburgh 23

Insight Bowl, 6 p.m. ET, NFL Network

What it is: Divine punishment for the dot-com boom.

The Teams: Kansas, Minnesota

How Kansas got here: In part by defeating Sam Houston State and Florida International. Seriously, those two games are all that separates the 7-5 Jayhawks from not being bowl eligible. Their only quality victory is a 40-37 rivalry defeat of slumping Missouri, one of just two games Kansas won in its last six. Junior QB Todd Reesing was solid, as usual, completing 65.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,575 yards and 28 TDs against 12 INTs. But when your defense allows 402.2 ypg in total offense, it's hard to win games.

How Minnesota got here: Because there's nothing wrong with losing your last four, as long as you've got Montana State and Purdue on the schedule to ensure bowl eligibility. The Gophers are 7-5 despite scoring just one more point than their opponents.

College football fans care because: Really? There's not much reason to.

SEC fans care because: See above.

Watch this game if ... : You root for Kansas or Minnesota. Or you hate college football.

The result: Kansas 35, Minnesota 23

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